The Importance of Access
One Ohio Now (OON) is a coalition of 100+ health and human service organizations, labor unions, advocacy groups, and more. They work to educate and mobilize the public and the state legislature to support policy change that meet the needs of Ohio’s citizens. OON came to me, needing a cohesive brand language, a voice, and an online presence that could effectively communicate with a diverse audience—people who know absolutely nothing about budget and policy, to the legislature that makes the budget and policy.
After several conversations with senior staff at OON, I learned that their core goal was to create a flexible, welcoming, and trustworthy brand language that could be used to communicate and educate. They already had a website, mainly used for sharing resources and archiving their past policy-reform work, but as a resource, it wasn’t performing in a satisfying way. Users were confused by the conglomerate mix of information (some, highly technical) and media, often unable to find answers to the basic questions they were asking. My role in the project was to design and implement a brand language that would bring cohesiveness and approachability to OON’s online and marketing presence; harmonize their voice and increase its accessibility; and ensure that their website provided a pleasant and educational experience for all users.
Enabling Good Design
As a non-profit, OON’s funding was limited; they prioritize solutions and systems that allow them to be self-sufficient wherever possible. To this end, my first design work for them was to create an infographic that would be used to help inform policy discussions, and hopefully establish the framework of a larger design language. With this printed graphic, I established a style that was distinctive, accessible, and emotionally engaging. By starting with this small, but highly circulated graphic, we were able to shop the design style around to see if it was hitting the mark with viewers. The reception of the infographic was overwhelmingly positive, with specific accolades pointing to the clarity and comprehensibility of the data. Based on the feedback received, I created a simple design style guide and a targeted selection of assets so the OON staff would be able to create their own social media posts—and other small designs—and begin rolling out the new design language.
Building Out the Brand
After the initial rollout of the new brand language, I worked with OON on several of their more complex design projects. The first was a series of animated short videos that OON hoped to distribute via social media channels, to inform the voting public about the disparities of the current tax system. The challenge was figuring out how to tell a compelling story about taxation, while also empowering and inspiring the viewer to help make a change. After some storyboarding and working directly with the client, we settled on a simple story that showed two parallel paths: what is, and what could be if tax policy was changed. The finished videos struck a chord with Ohioans and was a useful tool in inspiring citizens to speak up for change in their state.
The second project I helped OON with was a “State of the State” visual guide of the successes and failures happening at a high level in Ohio, over the past year. Its release was slated to coincide with Ohio’s Governor Kasich’s own State of the State address, giving citizens access to a bigger picture to contrast with the, oftentimes cherry-picked, talking points. It is also meant to be a reference and platform for any citizens that want to take the initiative to speak out about areas of contention at local and state levels, throughout the year. To achieve these lofty goals, I worked closely with OON to identify, write, and present a wealth of relevant content in an accessible, visual way, and divided into major categories for quick reference. Jargon terminology, where unavoidable, was clearly defined, and indexed into a glossary. Supporting imagery was shot and sourced to humanize the statistics and make it more real and relatable. The final report was a great success, creating ongoing conversations at the legislative level, and with citizens via social media. To date, OON comes back to me every year to re-create a new State of the State report and help distribute this valuable information.
The interactive report can be viewed here: The State of Ohio, 2017.
The third project I worked with OON on was the redesign of their website. At this point the stage was set with the newly established brand language gaining real traction with viewers, to come together and develop a new website. I started the process by conducting a full audit of their current website, looking at all the content and organizing it into a system map. By doing so, I was able to clearly see holes and tangles in the structure and, with OON’s help, identify areas of bloat that could be trimmed or streamlined. At this point I searched out and audited some of the most successful state and state-focused non-profit websites, to get an understanding of what was working and any potential watch-outs. After augmenting the project requirements with these new learnings, I created the wireframes (the skeletal framework, focused on functionality) for the website. One important addition to OON’s new site was a call to action on every page that promotes viewer engagement by clearly detailing ways they can make their voices heard and make a difference. After wireframes, I applied aesthetic design to the site, made much easier than usual by the previously-drafted brand style guide. At the outset of the project, I had helped OON identify a developer to handle the coding for the site; after the visual design was completed I worked with the developer by providing final assets and a development guide for easy execution. Check out the full, finished site here, OneOhioNow.org.
With the rollout of their new website, and the further extension of their new brand language, OON has been able to extend the reach of their message and communicate it more effectively than ever before. Now, through good, thoughtful design, more Ohio citizens are informed and empowered to make their voices heard on issues that matter deeply.